The Ideas of Reformation

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Updated: Apr 26, 2021
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“The Reformation was not about Calvin or Luther or any other personality. Much less was it about the ups and downs of church politics. No, the Reformation was about the Word of God, which was to be proclaimed faithfully and conscientiously to the people of God. Calvin held himself to a high standard and demanded no less of the others called to the office of preaching. The Apostle Paul reminds Timothy that the Scriptures are able to make him wise unto salvation in Christ Jesus (3:15). He teaches that the Scriptures are useful for teaching, reproof (rebuking), correcting, and training in righteousness (3:16). Because the Scriptures have this character, they thoroughly equip the man of God for every good work (3:17). So, Paul tells Timothy that he must preach this Word, even though the time is coming when people will not want to hear it, preferring teachers to suit their fancy, that is, teachers who will instruct them in myths rather than the truth of the Word (4:1-4). The clarity of Paul’s teaching here is strong. In spite of the rich oral teaching Timothy has received, he is to preach the Scriptures because those Scriptures clearly give him all that he needs for wisdom and preparation to instruct the people of God in faith and all good works. Scripture makes him wise for salvation and equips him with everything he needs to do every good work required of the preacher of God. The sufficiency and clarity of the Word are repeatedly taught here. John Chrysostom paraphrased the meaning of Paul’s words to Timothy this way: “You have Scripture for a master instead of me; from there you can learn whatever you would know.” So, at the very foundation of hermeneutics one must grasp and understand that Scriptures are complete and do not need the traditions of men or church.

In the book Sola Scriptura, John MacArthur has this to say about the sufficiency of the written word: “It is necessary to understand what sola Scriptura does and does not assert. The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture.

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It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science. This or that “scientific truth”, for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture, but Scripture is a “more sure Word”, standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty. It is “more sure”, according to the apostle Peter, than the data we gather firsthand through our sense (2 Peter 1:19). Therefore, Scripture is the highest and supreme authority on any matter on which it speaks.”

In the fifteenth century men like Erasmus formed great opinions about the study of the Word of God. Erasmus wrote things like this: “If anyone shows us the footprints of Christ, in what manner; as Christians, do we prostrate ourselves, how we adore them! But why do we not venerate instead the living and breathing likeness of him in these books? If anyone displays the tunic of Christ, to what corner of the earth would we not hasten so that we may kiss it? Yet were you bring forth his entire wardrobe, it would not manifest Christ more clearly and truly than the Gospel writings.”

“I would that even the lowliest women read the Gospels and the Pauline Epistles. And I would that they were translated into all languages so that they could be read and understood not only by Scots and Irish but also by Turks and Saracens…Would that, as a result, the farmer sing some portion of them at his plough, the weaver should hum some parts of them to the movement of his shuttle, the traveler lighten the weariness of the journey with stories of this kind! Let all the conversations of every Christian be drawn from this source.”

In the book Table Talk with Martin Luther, Luther is quoted saying these things about the Holy Word of God: “The Holy Scriptures are full of divine gifts and virtues. The books of the heathen taught nothing of faith, hope or charity; they present no idea of these things; they contemplate only the present, and that which man, with the use of his material reason, can grasp and comprehend. Look not therein for aught of hope or trust in God. But see how Psalms and the book of Job treat of faith, hope, resignation, and prayer; in a word the Holy Scripture is the highest and best of books, abounding in comfort under all afflictions and trails. It teaches us to see, to feel, to grasp, and to comprehend faith, hope, and charity, far otherwise than mere human reason can; and when evil oppresses us, it teaches how these virtues throw light upon the darkness, and how, after this poor, miserable existence of ours on earth, there is another and an eternal life.”

“We ought not to criticize, explain, or judge the Scriptures by our mere reason, but diligently, with prayer, meditate thereon, and seek their meaning. The devil and temptations also afford us occasion to learn and understand the Scriptures, by experience and practice. Without these we should never understand them, however diligently we read and listened to them. The Holy Ghost must here be our only master and tutor; and let youth have no shame to learn of that preceptor. When I find myself assailed by temptation, I forthwith lay hold of some text of the Bible, which Jesus extends to me; as this: that he died for me, whence I derive infinite hope.””

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The Ideas of Reformation. (2021, Apr 26). Retrieved from